Friendships that unravel as adults can be complicated to mend. Friendship can waver from distance, lack of effort, or an act that is hurtful. Adults hold grudges and stay bitter over being hurt –meaning the piece that holds back forgiveness can be stubbornness.
We asked experts to share their wisdom and advice for building friendships back up.
Manage the expectations of the friend
Adult friendships can unravel because of our expectations of the other person. “We act out of a sense of what we need, not what another person necessarily needs from us,” says Blythe Daniel, co-author of the book, Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters. “Expectations can be killers of relationships.”
Daniel says to find common ground and put your relationship ahead of your differences. Be proactive in describing why you feel slighted in your friendship and how your friend can step up to meet your needs. Once this is articulated, they should understand your perspective; but the key here is that they have to understand your position. They have to get it, that’s how the shift will happen. “Resist trying to change and control the other,” adds Daniel.
Give a heartfelt apology
The best approach to mending a friendship is give a genuine apology to clean up your side of the street, says Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D., an expert in clinical psychology. “When you give an apology you must acknowledge what you did wrong, you can give the reasons why you did what you did to help the other person understand where you are coming from,” explains Dr. Campbell. From here you need to say how you will change your behavior or thought patterns going forward. “This brings peace, understanding, and clarity going forward; this high level of love shows respect and humility,” she adds. It is also important to let your friend know exactly what hurt you and what you would need to see moving forward in terms of understanding and/or flexibility. “From this place you can have a new start and a deeper potential for the friendship,” Dr. Campbell continues.
Recognize the patterns of the friendship
When it comes to mending an adult friendship, it’s important to notice the patterns or pattern that caused the disruption or break in the relationship, says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. “Through this awareness and understanding, healing steps can then be made,” Dr. Manly says. “This step is essential in order to understand how to avoid any negative patterns and missteps that harm the relationship.” If the relationship has historically been one-sided, speak openly to your friend and tell her about how you’d like the friendship to evolve. “Reach out to your friend with an open heart and mind,” adds. Dr. Manly.
Reach out to reconnect
Send your friend a text or call and tell her you miss her friendship and try and take the steps to reconnect. “If the friend is not yet willing, do not be pushy or disrespectful,” suggests Dr. Manly. “Simply respond with, ‘I understand. Would you be open to me calling you in a month to check in?’” If the friend is still resistant, it’s often best to respect the boundaries and respect the friend’s needs. “If the friend declines connection at this stage, a later follow-up — perhaps several months down the line — may be appropriate depending on the friend’s response,” she continues. “First and foremost, it’s key that boundaries be respected.”
In situations where the friend agrees to reconnect, it’s essential that the past not be reviewed in a blaming, negative manner. Dr. Manly says not to dwell on past mistakes so the relationship can move forward with new, positive patterns.